A major change has occurred for the better within the people of Israel. Today, there is a good deal less shouting and animosity. We listen to each other more; our positions have grown closer together.
Mr. Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Yitzhak Rabin,
Fifteen years have passed since that same bitter and terrible day when, to our great tragedy, the bullets from a Jewish murderer’s gun struck you down. Much has changed in the world and in Israel during those years, for the better but also for the worse.
We have not yet achieved the longed-for peace, and I am not entirely certain I am surprised by that. You were skeptical and cautious, wary and suspicious, calculating the odds as well as the risks, and yet still you were determined to continue to march forward on the path leading to conciliation and an agreement, and not to despair. Although the events that occurred throughout the years frequently increased the doubts, I share your attitude that we must continue to try, continue to strive for an agreement, because I believe that we should know if a peace agreement is obtainable; and if it is obtainable, we must try.
In the fifteen years that have passed, fundamentalist Islam – which you rightfully called the enemy of peace – has reared its head and strengthened exponentially. It struck at the heart of the United States; it threatens Europe; it won the elections in Gaza; it has taken control of the Gaza Strip and South Lebanon; and it has armed Israel’s enemies in the north and the south with tens of thousands of missiles and rockets. Now – to the worry of the entire world – it continues to attempt to build a destructive nuclear force. We will need to join hands with the free world, and we will also need to find the strength in our internal unity, in order to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the face of the enemy of our country, of the Jewish people and of freedom and democracy.
The major change that has occurred for the better occurred within our ranks, within the people of Israel. Today, we are no longer divided into two opposing camps, each of which was convinced that it was entirely right and just and that, were it not for them, the country would be destroyed and disaster would be brought upon it. There is a good deal less shouting and animosity. We listen to each other more; our positions have grown closer together; the gaps have narrowed. One part of the country recognized that it is impossible to exist for long without a political arrangement and without compromise. And the other part today understands that it is not alone in seeking peace; it has learned that Israel does not stand on the verge of an apocalyptic vision; that not everything is in our hands.
Today the majority of Israel’s citizens better understand, I believe, that, even when a peace agreement is achieved, Israel will have to continue to very carefully safeguard its security assets. Because security preserves the peace, and undermining security dissolves it. Because of this, I believe that there is broader national agreement today, as there is broader agreement regarding the purpose of our existence here, which you, Yitzhak Rabin, defined so well.
In the final speech you gave in the Knesset, you said: “We aspire to reach, first and foremost, the State of Israel as a Jewish state… At the same time, we also promise that the non-Jewish citizens of Israel… will enjoy full personal, religious and civil rights, like those of any Israeli citizen.” “Judaism and racism,” you said, “are diametrically opposed.” “We are convinced that a binational state will not be able to fulfill the Jewish role of the State of Israel, which is the state of the Jews.”
Distinguished President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres,
Speaker of the Knesset,
Madam President of the Supreme Court,
Honorable Chief Rabbis,
This is the fundamental point of view that guided Yitzhak Rabin – a State of Israel that fulfills its Jewish and democratic role, one that lives in peace and security with all its neighbors, first and foremost its Palestinian neighbors – and I believe that this aspiration today unites the vast majority of the nation. And I believe that, with our combined forces, we will be able to realize it.
May your memory be blessed, Yitzhak Rabin. May your mark be forever engraved in the heart of our nation.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech in the Knesset session in memory of Yitzhak Rabin
Yesterday I read the final speech given by Yitzhak Rabin from this podium. It was a speech he gave on October 5, 1995, one month before that black day in the history of our people when he was slain by a vile murderer who cannot and will never be forgiven.
I know all too well that one cannot reduce a political leader’s worldview down to one speech. Every speech is the consequence of a certain reality, of a certain context and of a certain time.
Nevertheless, certain aspects of Yitzhak Rabin’s final speech reverberate throughout the years, and have not lost any of their vitality or strength.
In that speech, Yitzhak Rabin said: “The land of the prophets, which bequeathed to the world the values of morality, law and justice, was, after two thousand years, restored to its lawful owners — the members of the Jewish people. On its land, we have built an exceptional national home and state.”
“However, we did not return to an empty land. There were Palestinians here who struggled against us for a hundred wild and bloody years. Many thousands, on both sides,” he said, “were killed in the battle over the same land, over the same strip of territory, and were joined by the armies of the Arab states.”
“We can continue to fight,” he said. “We can continue to kill — and continue to be killed. But we can also try to put a stop to this never-ending cycle of blood. We can also give peace a chance.”
Yitzhak Rabin said, “We view the permanent solution in the framework of State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.”
“We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority. The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.”
“The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.”
“Jerusalem,” Rabin said in his speech, would be “united as the capital of Israel under Israeli sovereignty,” and “will include both Ma’ale Adumim and Givat Ze’ev”.
“We came to an agreement, and committed ourselves before the Knesset, not to uproot a single settlement in the framework of the interim agreement, and not to hinder building for natural growth.”
“We know the chances. We know the risks. We will do our best to expand the chances and reduce the risks.”
I hereby conclude the summation of Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Yitzhak Rabin’s final speech in this hall.
These things were said 15 years ago, and naturally I have a great deal to add to them after so many years.
But on this special day, I ask that the words and voice of Yitzhak Rabin echo and be heard without any additions and without interruption, other than two short remarks.
The first brief remark is an obvious one regarding construction and the moratorium: I already said that the temporary construction moratorium was a gesture made by no other previous government, and I believe that Yitzhak Rabin’s words in this regard are an additional confirmation of this observation.
In addition, construction in existing communities in Judea and Samaria does not contradict the aspiration for peace and an agreement.
The second remark has to do with his reference to the Palestinian entity that would be established. Yitzhak Rabin spoke of, and I quote: “less than a state”. I do not know what he intended at the time. Today, we say “a demilitarized state that recognizes the state of the Jewish people”. We do not want to deny the Palestinians their right of self-definition. We do not want to rule them.
What we do want is that the Jewish state be recognized and protected. Our insistence on security is not a whim and it is not an excuse. We withdrew from Lebanon and Iran is sitting on the border. We withdrew from Gaza and there, too, Iran is sitting on the border. We cannot let this happen a third time.
We can prevent it through real security arrangements and we must stand behind them. I have no doubt that Yitzhak Rabin, as a man in the security field, would fully agree with this insistence. I am not just saying this facetiously. Because at the root of these statements, there is no argument about separation; there is no argument about peace. But there is the legitimate and necessary question of what will happen the day after, and how we will ensure that what happened twice will not happen a third time. We want peace.
The years that passed narrowed the gaps and brought the positions of the various parts of the nation closer together. This growing closeness may help us reach an agreement, but it does not mean that is only dependent on us here in Israel.
However, one thing is certain: with unity or without it, with an agreement or without it, there is one clear and unequivocal statement regarding any disagreement between us: there is no room for violence like the kind that ended the life of the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, commander of the Six Day War, Palmach fighter, Jerusalemite – Yitzhak Rabin.
Even after 15 years, we are still struck by grief and pain. We will hope and pray, work and endeavor, so that the lesson will be learned and will never be forgotten. We will act fearlessly and with determination to achieve peace and security for our nation, because only a true combination of the two will ensure our future.
May the memory of Yitzhak Rabin be blessed.